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Control Yourself, Not Your Partner – The Power Struggle

Control Yourself, Not Your Partner - The Power Struggle
Control Yourself, Not Your Partner – The Power Struggle

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like reveal how to overcome the power struggle by shifting your focus from controlling your partner to controlling yourself.

First a quick update:

“5 Languages of Love”
What do you need to feel truly loved? Love is an expression and therefore it has a language – a form of communicating and expressing. There are 5 languages of love – 5 ways to communicate and experience love

“The Power Struggle Between Men And Women”
There are various ways that a man can attempt to control and dominate a woman, leading to a power struggle. Watch the video!

Now, let’s talk about how to overcome the power struggle by shifting your focus from controlling your partner to controlling yourself.

The power struggle – the attempt by one or both partners to control the other person – is one of the most common and most destructive responses in relationships. It can begin as a phase and become a fixed response until it eventually and inevitably destroys the love, the relationship, the individual’s self-esteem and self-worth or all of the four above. Further, extreme power struggles can lead to abusive relationships.

Power is the ability to direct or influence the behavior of others.

Why would a person in a committed relationship need or desire to direct or influence the behavior of their partner?

The desire for power over another person is usually driven by insecurity and perceived powerlessness.

And the more that the ‘powerless’ person fights for power over their partner, the more they erode the relationship and bond, and the struggle for power turns into aggressive, condemnatory, judgmental, harsh and even abusive treatment of the other person, the partner.

Very quickly and easily, the desire for power can create a tyrant who punishes and berates the partner until he/she lives out of fear; love can never live, thrive or survive in a relationship driven by fear and a power struggle.

“To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” – Buddha

In the early phase of a relationship, there can be a power struggle to determine the direction and terms of a relationship. This can actually be healthy as you both decide and state your needs, roles and desires for the relationship.

However, when the power struggle continues for a long period, it becomes unhealthy.

As stated above, the push for power occurs because one person believes that he/she is powerless and unloved and so he/she fights to control and dominate.

I have seen in various clients, harsh responses and a power struggle when the languages of love do not match. One male client struggled with his wife because he needed constant affirmations and affection in order to feel loved, while his wife needed quality time and acts of service to feel loved. Instead of seeking discussion and ways to express love to each other, he chose to respond to her with attempts to dominate, criticize and belittle her as a means of feeling secure and powerful. Of course, it failed to make him feel secure and loved and his responses led to mutual feelings of contempt, and they divorced.

The solution to dissolving and neutralizing the desire to control the other person is to shift the focus onto controlling yourself instead of him/her.

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.” –Albert Ellis

We react harshly and try to control the other person because we feel weak, afraid, fearful, insecure or powerless. These feelings are not created by the other person, our partner; they are created by our own mind and our own fears and perceptions.

One approach, known as emotionally literate dialogue, is to ask permission to speak one’s fear or “Paranoid Fantasy” and seek validation, clarification or denial:

John says to Mary, “I have a paranoid fantasy that you don’t like me, that you are angry at me.”

Mary now looks inward and answers honestly about whether or not there is a “validating grain of truth” to John’s fear or paranoid fantasy: “I ended the phone call early because I was already irritated about something else and I didn’t feel like talking anymore and you wouldn’t take the hint…” Now John and Mary have the chance to understand themselves and each other and move forward from there.

This form of emotionally literate dialogue allows both people to discover they are on the same side and gives them the choice to resolve, be supportive and trust each other. Accordingly, they can adjust their expectations and demands of each other.

Of course, there are also individuals who even when paired with a partner who matches their love languages and expresses love freely, still feels weak, insecure and powerless, and so they waste energy seeking to dominate, control and berate their partner.

Often these deep seated fears and insecurities come from childhood experiences of feelings of powerlessness created by not being understood, heard, supported, or protected by the adults in their lives.

Again, the only solution here is for that person to focus on controlling his/her own mind – his/her own thoughts, fears and paranoid fantasies – and seeking healing and resolution via professional help.

If you need assistance to understand and control yourself and/or understand your partner and relationship, book a one-on-one session with me.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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